Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Rapper speaks of nephew's death

Identifying his nephew's body following a drink drive accident was the worst day of Flaxmere rapper Tipene Harmer's life.

It has taken the rising artist nearly five years to be able to talk about Richard Starr Harmer's death, who was "like his brother". Last week he performed his new song Letter to the Stars, based on the experience, to Year 8 students from 15 Hastings schools at the inaugural Keep it Real alcohol and drug expo.

"We grew up together, even though he is my nephew we were the same age so we were like brothers," he said.

"Everyone knew him and everyone loved him ... he just went for a night out with some people he had just met and it just happened so quick."

Richie, as he was known to friends and family, was travelling in a car driven by a drunk driver who took the corner from Brookfield Rd to Sissons Rd, Napier, too fast on December 1, 2007.

Richie and the driver, William Flynn, were both killed in the crash. Passenger Jared Thomas was permanently paralysed and another passenger had ongoing complications from severe brain injuries.

"I was the one who had to identify him and tell everyone and I would never wish that on anybody," he said.

"I thought this would be a good way for me to heal and move past all of that and hopefully save a life or two in the process - raising awareness is all part of that."

The two-hour long seminars at the Bay Outreach Centre included Police, St John Ambulance and inspirational speaker Henare O'Brien.

Flaxmere neighbourhood policing team constables Adam Dunnett and Shane Greville told students how 80 per cent of crimes were committed by people under the influence of drugs of alcohol. They hoped to show how these convictions could seriously hinder their future travel and career plans.

Mr Greville said they targeted the younger audience as a preventative measure.

"It is preventative targeting of the younger ones before they start experimenting with it instead of afterwards," he said.

Organiser Karla Sewter, from the New Zealand Red Cross, said the event was driven by the Hastings District Council, and she hoped it would become a regular feature and grow to incorporate Napier schools.

"The expo is based on encouraging Year 8 students to make better choices," she said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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